The NFL Playoffs are still seven weeks away, but that does not mean the games being played this weekend are not critical to the ability for teams to position themselves into the postseason chase, or knock themselves out of the positioning. This morning, we take a look at the latest AFC Playoff picture, as well as how you should be rooting to help Miami get to the tournament.
Current AFC playoff standings:
1 - New England Patriots (9-0; AFC East leaders)
2 - Cincinnati Bengals (8-1; AFC North leaders)
3 - Denver Broncos (7-2; AFC West leaders)
4 - Indianapolis Colts (4-5; AFC South leaders)
5 - Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
6 - Buffalo Bills (5-4)
New York Jets (5-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5)
Oakland Raiders (4-5)
Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Houston Texans (4-5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6)*
Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
San Diego Chargers (2-7)
Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Tennessee Titans (2-8)*
*Teams completed Week 11 contest on Thursday night, with Jaguars winning)
Week 11 Rooting Guide:
Oakland Raiders (4-5) at Detroit Lions
The Raiders currently hold the tie break over Miami based on conference winning percentage. That will not change with a loss here, but pushing Oakland down to 4-6 rather than up to 5-5 is important. Root for: Detroit.
Indianapolis Colts (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis holds the head-to-head tiebreak over the Huston Texans, pushing them into the division lead. Keeping the Colts in the division lead makes sense since Miami also has a head-to-head advantage over Houston for Wildcard tiebreakers. This is one of the rare times where an NFC team facing an AFC team does not automatically mean to root for the NFC team. Root for: Indianapolis.
St. Louis Rams at Baltimore Ravens (2-7)
Baltimore is two games behind Miami in the standings, so a win here does not really put them into the AFC Playoff pictures. A win, however, does improve their record, which could help Miami down the road with tiebreaks, assuming Miami were to beat Baltimore in Week 13. Another NFC team facing an AFC team, where it somehow is better if the AFC team wins. Root for: Baltimore.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Two NFC teams facing off would not usually be included in the listing, but there are actually two such contests this week. The Dolphins have to start looking at tie-break procedures as well as overall record. Since this game has no bearing on the records in the AFC for playoff standings, the strength of victory tie break, which is the fifth tiebreak procedure, could come into play at some point. The Eagles increasing their record helps Miami. Root for: Philadelphia.
Denver Broncos (7-2) at Chicago Bears
This game really has no bearing on the Dolphins' 2015 season. The Broncos are three games clear of Kansas City in the AFC West, so even a loss keeps them comfortably ahead of the Chiefs. The Dolphins do no play either of these teams this year, so there is no benefit from the strength of victory for Miami. The only way this game does benefit the Dolphins would be by harming some other team's strength of victory. In that case, we end up working our way to rooting for the Bears. Root for: Chicago.
New York Jets (5-4) at Houston Texans (4-5)
Miami has the head-to-head advantage over the Texans, while waiting for another chance to punish the Jets. Miami will not have to wait long, with the scheduled Week 12 game against their divisional rivals. A Houston win keeps them in the Playoff chase, but it would also bring the Jets back down to .500 on the year. That is more important at this point. Root for: Houston.
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers
Another all NFC game, but another time for Miami to see their tie-breaks increased. Miami beat Washington back in Week 1, and could use more wins for the Redskins to continue to increase that strength of schedule. Plus, it would end an undefeated season attempt from being accomplished. Root for: Washington.
Dallas Cowboys at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
This one is pretty simple: root for the Dolphins. Root for: Miami.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) at San Diego Chargers (2-7)
This game could help Miami in two different ways. First, knocking the Chiefs back down to two games below .500 would be good to end a tie with the Dolphins (assuming Miami gets to .500). The Chiefs have, on paper, the easiest remaining schedule in the league, so picking up a loss here could be critical in making sure they fall out of the playoff hunt. Miami does not play Kansas City this season, but they do play the Chargers in December, where a win now by San Diego could help Miami in the strength of victory tie-break later as well as the AFC winning percentage tiebreak (second tie-break) if Miami and Kansas City end up tied. Root for: San Diego.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-1) at Arizona Cardinals
Miami has no games against either of these teams, so really this game does not have a lot riding on it for Miami. Cincinnati is clear in the AFC North, so unless they fall apart and the Steelers pull it together, the Bengals should win the division and not enter the playoff contention. Root for: Push - no real advantage either way, so probably root for the NFC team.
Buffalo Bills (5-4) at New England Patriots (9-0)
Every week it sucks watching the Patriots win, knowing there is still a zero in the loss column. This week, however, the Patriots winning means the Bills coming back toward Miami in the standings. The Dolphins went 0-2 against the Bills this year, so they have to get a game ahead of them in the win/loss ratio if the Dolphins are going to move ahead of the team currently occupying the last Wildcard slot. A loss here and a Miami win would be the first step. Root for: New England.
Post-Week 11 Standings
(If everything works out perfectly)
1 - New England Patriots (10-0; AFC East leaders)
2 - Cincinnati Bengals (8-2; AFC North leaders)
3 - Denver Broncos (7-3; AFC West leaders)
4 - Indianapolis Colts (5-5; AFC South leaders)
5 - Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
6 - Buffalo Bills (5-5)
New York Jets (5-5)
Miami Dolphins (5-5)
Houston Texans (5-5)
Kansas City Chiefs (4-6)
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6)
Oakland Raiders (4-6)
Baltimore Ravens (3-7)
San Diego Chargers (3-7)
Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Tennessee Titans (2-8)